A railway tunnel destroyed in the May 12 earthquake in northwest China has been rebuilt a month ahead of schedule and opened to traffic on Wednesday.
A train passed through the new No.109 tunnel on the Baoji-Chengdu railway in Gansu Province at 2:28 p.m., six months to the minute since the quake that left more than 69,000 people dead and 18,000 missing.
The 8-magnitude quake badly damaged the southern section of the Baoji-Chengdu railway, and caused the No. 109 tunnel in Hui County to collapse, resulting in a blaze on a train carrying gasoline.
The wreckage of the 12 fuel tankers was removed from the tunnel on May 20 to avoid the risk of further explosions.
The tunnel reopened to traffic on May 24 after rescuers worked round the clock for 12 days as it was a main route for relief goods, but its weakened structure no longer met safety standards.
The Ministry of Railways began the tunnel relocation on June 26 with a six-month construction schedule, said Lu Chunfang, Vice Minister of Railways, at the opening ceremony.
Long Jing, head of the Xi'an Railway Bureau, said the new tunnel, at 873 meters long, is located to the north of the old one, reducing the route by 486 meters, and enabling the train to accelerate to 80 km/h compared with a maximum speed of 60 km/h previously.
Long said the tunnel was lined with steel-reinforced concrete, which significantly enhanced it quake resistance.
(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2008)